As your constituents we would like to bring to your attention that the anti-slavery activist and opposition leader Biram Dah Abeid has been arrested and arbitrarily detained by the Mauritanian government since August 7th 2018, days after returning home from a trip in the US. As your constituents we would like also to ask you to urge the government of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania to immediately free Mr. Abeid.
Biram Dah Abeid is the leader of IRA (Initiative for the Resurgence of Abolitionist Movement) an organization that fights to end slavery and other human rights violations in Mauritania. In recent years Mr. Abeid and IRA have been awarded several prizes including the 2013 UN Human Rights Prize, the 2016 US Department of State TIP Reports Heroes Award, and the 2015 Tulip Award by the Dutch government and the 2016 James Lawson prize from the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict among others. Mr. Abeid was also named one of the most influential people in the world in 2017 by Time Magazine.
The history of slavery and discrimination of Black Africans by the Mauritanian government is well documented. Mauritania was the last nation on earth to outlaw slavery in 1981 but the law has never been enforced. According to the United Nations’ special rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery Gulnara Shahinian an estimated 10 to 20% of Mauritania’s 3.4 million people especially women and children are still held in bondage. In a recent report Amnesty International confirms that antislavery activists are subject to harassment and arrest by the Mauritania government.
High ranking officials who have perpetrated ethnic cleansing in the country in late nineteen- eighties and nineties and have deported thousands of their fellow citizens to Senegal and Mali are also slave masters.
For decades the authorities have implemented discriminatory policies that make it difficult for black Mauritanians to live in the country they love and cherish-forcing many of them to migrate. The lagging education system is designed in a way that favors the Arab speaking citizens. Regions predominantly black lack of schools, hospitals and clean water systems. Foreign aid when received is oriented in areas predominantly light skinned Arabs (also known as Beydanes). Government officials, high ranking army officers, executives in state owned agencies and the entire private sector are all in the hands of the Beydanes. Again the goal here is to impoverish the already poor black population and force them out of their country. As of this misfortune was not enough, thousands of black Mauritanians are now stateless. The government has decided to strip their citizenships-Another way for the sitting president to influence the vote during the legislative elections and eventually seek a 3rd presidential term which is not allowed under the current constitution of Mauritania.
More recently, Mr. Abeid and IRA have gone after the government’s practice of seizing land that the black populations have lived on and worked for generations and giving it to cronies, local elites and foreign investors. By doing so, Mr. Abeid and several IRA members have spent months in prison.
For this reason and many more, we would like to have your assurance that you will work for the immediate release of Biram Dah Abeid